The confusing path to getting out of prison early

Unless he gets an early release, Stanley Ingram is set to leave state prison in about 100 days. His parole plan, he said, includes going to live with family in Tucumcari and trying to put his Associate’s degree in wind energy technology to use. Besides his two year degree, he also earned two occupational certificates in the same field and a certificate for completing drug treatment while in prison. He said after spending years in and out of prison and struggling with substance abuse, he’s ready to leave his old life, and even his own self, behind. 

“That old Stanley’s dead and gone,” Ingram said. 

There’s little doubt that Ingram has already received second, third and fourth chances before he began his latest stint in state prison. According to court records, Ingram violated probation numerous times after he was convicted of a handful of felonies, including burglary and contributing to the delinquency of a minor. 

Ingram’s record inside prison seems to show he’s made a turn, although there is enough in his prison disciplinary record to make his attempts at early release more difficult. 

He was able to appeal most of the infractions he faced inside.

Primary wins for progressive Democrats a ‘mandate’ on abortion rights, say activists

With five out of seven grassroots challengers winning seats in the state Senate, some of which were historic upsets, activists said on Wednesday the wins are a “mandate” for reproductive healthcare. With most precincts reporting for the primary, five grassroots progressive Democratic challengers won over mostly long-established incumbent Democrats who were moderate or conservative-leaning, according to unofficial results.  All seven of the incumbent state Senate Democrats voted against HB 51, a bill that would have repealed the 1969 abortion ban.  

Marshall Martinez, New Mexico field director for Forward Together Action, said that the challengers openly spoke about HB 51 and publicly supported it, which now that so many of the challengers have won, makes abortion rights a “mandate” for the next legislative session. 

“The challengers named HB 51 as a key reason they ran. New Mexicans have said very clearly access to reproductive health, including abortion, is a priority,” Martinez said. Sarah Taylor-Nanista, executive director of Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains Action Fund, called the five wins “an important step” toward repealing the 1969 law. Abortion rights activists are concerned that with a conservative majority on the U.S. Supreme Court, the court will overturn Roe v. Wade.

ACLU spending on education in two state senate districts targeted by progressives

Two progressive Democrats, Siah Correa Hemphill and Pam Cordova, who are challenging  incumbents who lean more to the right within the Democratic party, are getting a boost in their campaign efforts. Correa Hemphill is running against incumbent Democratic state Sen. Gabriel Ramos. With her May filing report, she has outraised Ramos by $53.26. Ramos, who was appointed by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham to replace Lt. Gov. Howie Morales, is running his first election for the seat. The American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico is spending $150,000 in the remaining weeks of the primary to educate voters on the fact that Ramos and state Sen. Clemente Sanchez, also a Democrat, both voted against HB 51 in 2019.

NM Supreme Court denies request to expand inmate release

The New Mexico Supreme Court ruled Monday that Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s office did not willfully ignore the health and safety of state prison populations by releasing inmates in a limited manner during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The high court’s decision was in response to a petition filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico and the state’s Law Offices of the Public Defender, alleging that Lujan Grisham’s office subjected inmates in state-run detention centers to cruel and unusual punishment by not broadening the scope of who is released. 

Chief Justice Judith Nakamura, ruling from the bench, said since the court did not find that Lujan Grisham’s office was “deliberately indifferent” to a possible COVID-19 outbreak in state detention centers there was no need to consider whether inmates’ rights were violated.  

“It’s a two prong analysis,” Nakamura said. “The court is not addressing prong one. We’re basing our decision on prong two. And that’s the prong which specifically focuses on whether or not [Lujan Grisham’s office] are deliberately indifferent to the health and safety of inmates. On this record the court unanimously finds that the answer is ‘no.’

Chief Public Defender Bennet Baur told NM Political Report that regardless of the court’s decision, his office will keep pushing for more releases.

Governor’s office says no need for mass release of inmates

Ahead of oral arguments scheduled next month, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s office submitted written arguments to the New Mexico Supreme Court this week, asking the court to compel the governor to increase the number of inmate releases amid the COVID-19 pandemic. 

ACLU, public defender’s office calls on NM to release more inmates amid COVID-19

New Mexico’s Law Offices of the Public Defender and the state’s American Civil Liberties Union chapter filed a petition with the New Mexico Supreme Court, asking the high court to order the mass release of inmates as a way to limit the spread of COVID-19 in state jails. 

“People in congregate environments (where people live, eat, and sleep in close proximity) like prisons and jails face increased danger of contracting COVID-19, as already evidenced by the rapid spread of the virus on cruise ships and in nursing homes,” the petition read. “For example, New Mexico’s major outbreak events have thus far been in long-term care facilities.”

The petition is the latest of attempts by both groups to lower detention center populations. 

The two groups are asking the state’s high court to order the governor and the state’s Corrections Department to “Immediately review all corrections inmates” and work to quickly release those who are incarcerated for probation or parole violations, inmates who are at high risk of contracting COVID-19, those who have a year or less left on their sentence, non-violent offenders and pregnant inmates. 

The two groups are also asking the New Mexico Supreme Court to implore the state to stop jailing people for technical probation or parole violations, identify those who are eligible for gereatric or medical parole and to hold expedited parole hearings.  

#mc_embed_signup{background:#fff; clear:left; font:14px Helvetica,Arial,sans-serif; }
/* Add your own Mailchimp form style overrides in your site stylesheet or in this style block. We recommend moving this block and the preceding CSS link to the HEAD of your HTML file. */

Subscribe to our daily New Mexico COVID-19 recap

Last month Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham began ordering the release of some inmates in state facilities, but the LOPD and the New Mexico ACLU argued that those releases will not fully address the problem. 

“However, that order describes a very narrow class of inmates, and in the short-term (when NM will experience a peak in the stress in health care infrastructure) will reduce the prison populations by only about ten inmates statewide,” the petition read. 

The two groups argued in their petition that “Many inmates live in dormitory-style sleeping arrangements, sleeping in beds close together,” making it hard for inmates to practice social-distancing. 

“Put simply, inmates do not have the privilege of protecting themselves from infection,” the petition read. “New Mexico prisons lack adequate infrastructure to address the spread of infectious disease and the treatment of people most vulnerable to illness.”

Since New Mexico first reported positive COVID-19 tests, many criminal justice stakeholders have been pushing for limited in-person court proceedings and a reduction of inmates in both state and county detention centers.

As coronavirus spreads, advocates say it shows why paid sick leave is needed

With the coronavirus continuing to spread, some say the crisis emphasizes the need for paid time off for health emergencies in New Mexico. So far, there are no known positive cases of the coronavirus, also called COVID-19, in New Mexico, according to state Department of Health spokesman David Morgan. Jodi McGinnis Porter, director of communications for the New Mexico Human Services Department, said that as of the end of Sunday, 57 people in New Mexico tested for the virus and all tests were negative. But the state health department said last week that the agency anticipates positive tests at some point. Every state surrounding New Mexico has had at least one test positive case and there are hundreds of confirmed cases nationwide. 

The financial toll of the growing spread of the coronavirus is still not clear, but the Dow Jones dropped 2,000 points Monday and the price of oil dropped to $30.24 a barrel according to MarketWatch.com.

White House move to end ‘birth tourism’ discriminatory and misleading, say advocates

The White House announced Thursday it is halting the practice of what it calls “birth tourism” but New Mexico reproductive justice advocates call the new rule discriminatory and say it puts migrants at risk. As of Friday the State Department stopped issuing temporary visitor visas to nonresidents who enter in order to give birth on American soil. The practice enables the baby to be a U.S. citizen. Although it’s not known how many people engage in birth tourism, some conservatives consider it a “loophole” in immigration policy. But reproductive justice advocates call foul and say it’s another tool to demonize immigrants in general, and women immigrants and pregnant immigrants in particular.

Protesters march to ‘stop the bans’ on abortion

A couple of hundred abortion rights activists gathered in Albuquerque Tuesday as part of nationwide “Stop the Bans” protests. Ellie Rushforth, the ACLU of New Mexico Reproductive Rights Attorney, told the crowd, “We must keep fighting because our lives depend on it.”

The crowd then marched through downtown Albuquerque, holding signs and chanting slogans in support of abortion access. Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver, who is running for U.S. Senate, attended the rally. “I’m still fuming over the fact that the U.S. Senate put Brett Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court,” Toulouse Oliver said in a statement. “I can’t help but think that if more women were serving in the U.S. Senate, the outcome of the Kavanaugh hearings would have been very different.”

Representatives for members of the New Mexico congressional delegation also attended.

NM state law, the U.S. Supreme Court and abortion access

Reproductive healthcare and abortion access may be profoundly personal decisions, but changes to public policy in New Mexico could generate repercussions that extend far beyond the most private experiences of women across the state. According to recent analysis by the Guttmacher Institute, nearly one-in-four women in the United States have had or will have an abortion by age 45. And since Associate Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy announced in June that he would retire July 31, attention to a 50-year-old New Mexico law has intensified. Dormant since Roe v. Wade legalized abortion in 1973, the statute would go back into effect if Roe is overturned, meaning anyone who performs an abortion in New Mexico could be charged with a 4th-degree felony. Read this story’s companion piece, “Midterms could be key, with New Mexico’s abortion rights protections at a crossroads,” here. 

The social stigma attached to abortion means that many people don’t talk about it openly, said Planned Parenthood of New Mexico CEO Vicki Cowart in a recent interview, but there are millions of women for whom it has played a part in their personal and family histories.